WSU faculty from Pullman, Spokane, Tri-Cities, and Vancouver gathered on the Pullman campus on February 5, 2016 to explore ideas and initiatives surrounding STEM education. The goal was to begin developing a university-wide strategy for advancing STEM education at WSU. The College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of Research Advancement and Partnerships organized and hosted the workshop.
Welcome, Overview & Objectives of Workshop – Paul Whitney
Paul Whitney opened the workshop as the day’s moderator. He presented the day’s goals: 1) share best practices; 2) stimulate collaborations; and 3) assist team building to pursue extramural funding. He then presented lessons learned from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) STEM Summer Institute, which he attended in 2015. Institute funders emphasized evidence-based practices, scholarly rigor, use of logic models, communities of practice, funding, and scaling up. Whitney noted that persistence – on the part of individuals as well as the institution – is critical for program success. Active learning is also an important contributor to institutional STEM productivity, despite widespread resistance to change. Additional factors are accessibility, discovery, relevance, collaboration, and iteration. Ultimately, the need for STEM education is not just to create a workforce that in turn will contribute to general scientific literacy, but rather to create and enhance scientific literacy that will lead to more focused STEM education and workforce.
Collaborative Research: The Next Generation of STEM Teacher Preparation in Washington State – Judy Morrison
Judy Morrison presented her team’s STEM education initiative, for which they recently submitted a National Science Foundation Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) proposal. This IUSE project is a multi-institutional, cross-college collaboration with the goals of improving STEM teacher participation programs, increasing recruitment of STEM students into teaching, and creating a research-based model for improving teacher preparation. The project will be driven by teacher preparation and capacity building working groups, and supported by regionals team comprised of the universities and P-12 educators as well as government, business, and NGO representatives. Anyone interested is invited to participate with a working group or regional team, or to collaborate on a funding proposal.
Washington State University Health Science STEM Education Research Center – Janet Frost
Janet Frost then presented an overview of the WSU Health Science STEM Education Research Center. The HS-STEM-ER Center vision includes providing leadership, working with faculty, recruiting and retaining students, increasing shared use of campus resources, and providing a strong voice in health science education public policy. The center has numerous on-campus partnerships and collaborations. The center offers professional development opportunities, grant opportunities, collaborations and partnerships, outreach connections to regional school districts, and information about STEM programs.
WSU & K-12 Activities – Libby Knott
Libby Knott also presented, offering an overview of the teaching and research in mathematics education. The Mathematics Department assists with the education and preparation of mathematics teachers in elementary, middle school, and high school. Knott explained the roles of various faculty members and noted they all work with graduate students. Several graduate students are conducting math education research on a variety of teaching, learning, and persistence topics. Knott is the PI on a current NSF Math and Science Partnership grant, titled Making Mathematical Reasoning Explicit in which the WSU faculty work with 4th-12th grade math teachers to improve their teaching methods and approaches. Students in these classes are highly receptive and the teachers are also enjoying the lessons.
After the plenary presentations, workshop participants had two opportunities to attend four breakout session options:
STEM + A(RT) at WSU – Joe Hedges, Reza Safavi, Amy Nielsen
LSAMP and SOLES – Yadira Paredes
NSF Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate – Lori Carris, Ken Lokensgard, Kelly Ward
Piercing the ‘Fourth Wall’ in Education – Using Empathetic Connection to Authentic Audiences to Drive Student Performance – Charles Pezeshki
Participants broke into four discussion sections to address three issues: 1) “I didn’t know that…”; 2) “I’d like to know more about…”; and 3) “What WSU needs is…”. Several ideas and themes emerged when the sections presented their discussions to the rest of the group.
- Almost all groups reported that most members were unaware of the numerous STEM projects, initiatives, or resources across campus. There was also surprise at the lack of representation among American Indian and Hispanic students in STEM programs and graduate school. Many were also surprised at the easy connections between art and STEM.
- Most participants reported wanting to know more about opportunities for interdisciplinary work and STEM resources across the campuses. Funding opportunities and academic outreach were also of particular interest.
- All groups reported that they discussed the need for a lounge or some other place for regular informal contact with other faculty. Other suggestions for WSU needs included relief time for planning, value of interdisciplinary/collaborative projects for promotion and tenure, and increased opportunities/information for making connections.
Whitney asked for suggestions for concrete steps to achieve these ideas. One suggestion was for the appointment of a “STEM czar.” Most agreed that successful projects need the support of administration and departments, not just one or the other.
STEM Education Funding Opportunities
Becky James presented some examples of STEM funding opportunities. First of all, WSU seed grant deadlines are coming up soon (February 11), for both the Grand Challenges and the Strategic Reallocation. The National Science Foundation provides a large amount of funding, with at least 20 different programs specifically addressing STEM education. The National Institutes of Health also seek to train future scientists, especially under the Science Education Partnership Award. Private foundations typically support projects of smaller scope costing less money, but the Howard Hughes Medical Institute is one exception with a major program to support STEM education at colleges and universities. The Association of American Colleges and Universities offer a Summer Leadership Institute for STEM faculty under its Project Kaleidoscope program.